Patient Safety Advocates are good news for quality care

“Having worked at several hospitals – both large and small, urban and rural – and since coming to Campbellford Memorial Hospital (CMH), I have not encountered a hospital that does so much to enhance patient safety as we do here,” says Andrea Thomas, a Certified Pharmacy Technician working in CMH’s pharmacy.

Andrea notes the pharmacy is an important and necessary partner in a patient’s circle of care. “We are working together with nurses, physicians, pharmacists and local pharmacies, to ensure that the right patient receives the right drug at the right time in the right strength and form for the right reasons.”

In her role at CMH, Andrea is responsible for procuring medication, maintaining the hospital’s medication inventory, entering physicians’ orders for medication into the hospital’s system and on occasion, adjusting the form of drugs so their administration can be tailored to the specific needs of individual patients. She is also a patient safety advocate for the hospital.

As she suggests, it takes a team to create and foster a culture that emphasizes safe patient care. At CMH, patient safety advocates across the hospital are making a difference. Two years ago, the hospital began a program to profile the work of these individuals and how in their words they support the hospital’s values and its commitment to patient safety. Each is interviewed and their stories are shared with the broader hospital community including a variety of hospital committees such as Quality, Patient Care, Critical Care and Surgical, Hospital Foundation Staff, and Board of Directors. The stories are also shared with the public through hospital bulletin boards, stories in its annual report, newsletter and through profile in local newspapers.

“When you weave these individual perspectives together, it’s easy to see a culture taking shape that places patient safety at the core of everything we do – no matter where you work within the hospital,” notes Jan Raine, Chief Nursing Officer for CMH, who gave life to this initiative and who understands the power of communication and recognition in encouraging and promoting the right behaviours.

CMH is a 34-bed health care facility located in Trent Hills, Ontario. It serves approximately 30,000 area residents, as well as a large seasonal population of cottagers and tourists enjoying the beautiful Kawartha Lakes Region and the Trent River System. As the only hospital located between Belleville and Peterborough, Ontario, CMH provides a comprehensive array of acute care services. The hospital’s 24-hour emergency department has approximately 22,000 visits each year. Today, CMH employs approximately 200 people.

CMH’s patient safety advocates are asked to talk about their role at the hospital, describe what they do to support patient safety and to talk about why they think patient safety is important. Each story unfolds from there. Individuals from nursing, pharmacy, maintenance, health records and infection control – to name a few – have been profiled to date. Here’s what some say about patient safety at CMH:

“CMH people go above and beyond to provide the best level of care possible. Our nursing staff is very experienced. We take pride in what we do. We live in this community and this is our second home. When you come to this hospital, I want you to be treated the same way I want my mom, dad, brother or sister to be treated. We have expectations of care and we all deliver it,” says Tammy Philp, a unit coordinator who ensures a number of patient safety protocols and programs are followed, while always looking for opportunities to improve on current initiatives. “Patient safety is part of the culture here. It is part of my job to ensure what we say we are going to do to ensure the patient’s safety gets done – but this is very much a team effort that includes not only those who care for patients, but also our housekeeping staff and anyone who visits the hospital. We all want the best outcome for our patients and their families.”

“As physicians, we can’t take care of patients effectively if we have to address complications related to their treatment. C. diff is a miserable disease and it was essential for us to tackle this problem in a serious way,” explains Dr. Richard Schabas, a consultant internist at the hospital who also serves as the Medical Officer of Health for Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. “We adopted an Antibiotic Stewardship Program to find reasonable alternatives to and discourage the use of those antibiotics most typically associated with the presence of C. diff and most likely prescribed to treat pneumonia. This includes antibiotics such as clindamycin, fluoroquinolones, and cephalosporins. Ultimately this was an education program to discourage the use of these antibiotics and eventually, to restrict their use in this hospital. The Antibiotic Stewardship Program is another of example of CMH’s leadership in rural health care and is fundamental to our on-going efforts to ensure the care patients receive here is top-notch.”

CMH provides the only local lab service in the hospital’s broad catchment area. With people like medical lab technologist Lisa Brown on board, it’s no wonder this laboratory enjoys a ranking among the best in the province. “Every step of the work we do here is about having a safe outcome for our patients. When you see a patient every day, you get close to them. As part of the CMH team, our lab team has a lot of contact with patients, whether it’s taking blood or running tests in the lab, that we wouldn’t have with a larger hospital,” Lisa explains, adding: “Whether you are in maintenance, housekeeping, the lab or the emergency room — no matter where you work at the hospital — we are all focused on ensuring the patient’s stay is a safe one and we appreciate the responsibility we all share in helping our patients get better.”

Most patients will not likely personally meet Ivy Marshall when they visit the hospital. But their lives are touched by the role she serves within the hospital, ensuring a clean environment contributing to their recovery. Ivy is responsible for a department known as Central Service Reprocessing (CSR). This area ensures that all reusable medical devices and patient care items are properly cleaned, sterilized and processed. “We’re here to provide a safe environment when patients are ill. We want to promote the best possible outcome for patients in our care,” explains Ivy, adding: “By providing a clean, sterile and quality product, there’s going to be a good outcome for all.”

Have you washed your hands lately? If you worked at CMH, Lori Ellis would likely know that answer. A 24-year member of the hospital’s patient care team, Lori is a registered practical nurse (RPN) who says her role is to be an advocate for patient safety, anticipating patient needs and addressing their concerns. She also leads the hospital’s Just Clean Your Hands program. She is well positioned to see that patients go home as soon as possible, with the potential spread of infection controlled by good hand hygiene practiced by all at the hospital. Seeing a patient recover and return home to family and friends is what Lori loves most about her job at CMH. “Our goal is to reduce the spread of infection and make sure our patients do not get a preventable health-care infection,” says Lori. “Here at CMH, more people are washing their hands due to the education and greater awareness of the benefits to patients and staff,” she says.

Keeping a hospital running smoothly is no easy feat. Just like the patients that enter its doors, the hospital’s physical structure needs care and support to keep it healthy. Cliff Fisher is a member of the maintenance team at CMH and in this role he helps keep the hospital safe for patients. “The maintenance role is about troubleshooting what might go wrong and ensuring we anticipate what needs to be done to support the health of our building. When people come into the hospital, it is because they are sick or injured. They are not capable of looking after themselves and they put a lot of trust in the people who work here to look after them. Our job is to take care of the building so our health-care team can most effectively take care of our patients and live up to their expectations of care.”